The Nest of the Sparrowhawk
VI. The Stranger Within The Gates
Sue waited--expectant and still--until the last sound of the young man's footsteps
had died away in the direction of the house.
Then with quick impulsive movements she ran to the gate; her hands sought
impatiently in the dark for the primitive catch which held it to. A large and rusty
bolt! she pulled at it--clumsily, for her hands were trembling. At last the gate flew
open; she was out in the woods, peering into the moonlit thicket, listening for that
most welcome sound, the footsteps of the man she loved.
"My prince!" she exclaimed, for already he was beside her--apparently he had
lain in wait for her, and now held her in his arms.
"My beautiful and gracious lady," he murmured in that curiously muffled voice of
his, which seemed to endow his strange personality with additional mystery.
"You heard? ... you saw just now? ..." she asked timidly, fearful of encountering
his jealous wrath, that vehement temper of his which she had learned to dread.
Strangely enough he replied quite gently: "Yes ... I saw ... the young man loves
you, my beautiful Suzanne! ... and he will hate me now ..."
He had always called her Suzanne--and her name thus spoken by him, and with
that quaint foreign intonation of his had always sounded infinitely sweet.
"But I love you with all my heart," she said earnestly, tenderly, her whole soul--
young, ardent, full of romance, going out to him with all the strength of its purity
and passion. "What matter if all the world were against you?"
As a rule when they met thus on the confines of the wood, they would stand
together by the gate, forming plans, talking of the future and of their love. Then
after a while they would stroll into the park, he escorting her, as far as he might
approach the house without being seen.
She had no thought that Richard Lambert would be on the watch. Nay! so wholly
absorbed was she in her love for this man, once she was in his presence, that
already--womanlike--she had forgotten the young student's impassioned avowal,
his jealousy, his very existence.
And she loved these evening strolls in the great, peaceful park, at evening, when
the birds were silent in their nests, and the great shadows of ivy-covered elms
enveloped her and her romance. From afar a tiny light gleamed here and there in
some of the windows of Acol Court.
She had hated the grim, bare house at first, so isolated in the midst of the forests
of Thanet, so like the eyrie of a bird of prey.
But now she loved the whole place; the bit of ill-kept tangled garden, with its
untidy lawn and weed-covered beds, in which a few standard rose-trees strove to
find a permanent home; she loved the dark and mysterious park, the rusty gate,
that wood with its rich carpet which varied as each season came around.
To-night her lover was more gentle than had been his wont of late. They walked
cautiously through the park, for the moon was brilliant and outlined every object